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September 12, 2016

2020 raised concerns about the commercial heli-skiing permit in Garibaldi Park in our June 23, 2016 blog article entitled BC Parks approves heli-ski landing zones in Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone. In the blog article, 2020 contends,

Mapping by 2020 reveals for the first time that a commercial recreation park use permit for helicopter landing zones inside Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone was granted to Whistler Heli Skiing Ltd. by BC Parks.

This concern was responded to by Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division on September 2, 2016. Mr. Standen's letter contains the following paragraph,

Staff have confirmed with the planner responsible for development of the 1990 Garibaldi Park management plan that the intent of the 1990 plan is that the Wilderness Conservation Zone excludes all park developments and tenures, including the heli-ski tenure. I expect the errors in the mapping you provided are a result of overlaying a version of the Wilderness Conservation Zone that has been digitized from the 1990 Garibaldi Master Plan over spatial mapping of the heli-ski permit area. A defining point of the western boundary of the Wilderness Conservation Zone is Mount James Turner, which appears to differ from the boundary on the map you created. Regardless, any perceived overlap of the heli-ski tenure with the Wilderness Conservation Zone is incorrect and is a result of general inaccuracies in the mapping.

Ms. Jennifer Thuncher, a journalist with The Squamish Chief newspaper, had published an article devoted to this topic. See our August 22, 2016 blog. It deals with the double standard applied by the environment ministry that permits trespass by commercial heli-skiing into the wilderness conservation zone, the trammelling of park values and the detrimental impact on mountain goats in their ungulate winter range. Leading up to publication, Ms. Thuncher confirmed with ministry staff that the wilderness conservation zone boundary has not changed since the management plan was signed off in 1990.

2020 draws the blog reader to the following three germane statements that arise:

  1. The Garibaldi Park 1990 master plan defines the wilderness conservation zone boundary.
  2. The wilderness conservation zone boundary has not changed since the plan was approved.
  3. The western boundary of the wilderness conservation zone passes through Mount James Turner.

The third statement comes from Mr. Standen. If one takes the first two statements as true then the third statement is false.

The zoning map on page 10 of the 1990 master plan is a scale map. 2020 has a hardcopy of the plan, which is on standard 8½ by 11 inch paper. The scale at that size is 3.2 centimeters per 10 kilometers. The location of Mount James Turner is not shown on the zoning map but it is readily determined both in Google Earth using its ruler function and the federal government's National Topographic Series 1:50000 92 J/2 Whistler map as being 10.6 kilometers west of Garibaldi Park's eastern boundary. If the wilderness conservation zone boundary passed through Mount James Turner, the western boundary should be approximately 3.3 cm left of the eastern boundary on the zoning map. It is not. The western boundary is 4.2 cm left of the eastern boundary. The difference of 0.9 cm on the paper map corresponds to a discrepancy on the ground of 2.8 kilometers at the latitude of Mount James Turner.

The map produced by 2020 is accurate to within 50 meters by these calculations, which confirm our earlier blog statements. There is trespass by Whistler Heli-skiing of 1000 meters at the Ripsaw and 700 meters at the Quiver into the wilderness conservation zone. And Mr. Standen is incorrect. The western boundary of the wilderness conservation zone is almost 3 kilometers west of Mount James Turner.

What do we understand from this? There are possible explanations.

  • The wilderness conservation zone boundary approved in the 1990 master plan is being ignored by BC Parks staff when it suits them.
  • BC Parks never overlayed the Spearhead heli-skiing park use permit boundary on the park zoning map. Now that their error has been brought to light instead of acknowledging the error they are attempting to obfuscate and cover it up.

At this point, 2020 is demanding BC Parks come clean. The heli-skiing permit expires in October 2016. It should not be renewed as is. The PUP boundary should be adjusted to exclude the areas where it trespasses into the wilderness conservation zone.

Additionally, 2020 is pointing out that helicopter landing zones at the height of land with the Fitzsimmons Creek watershed must be relocated away from mountain goat winter range.


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